Defence Forces body seeks to join Ictu

Defence Forces body seeks to join Ictu
The naval base in Haulbowline: 80 sailors sleep on ships as they cannot afford rents nearby.

The association representing the country’s frontline Defence Forces has sought affiliation with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) so it can be involved collectively in national pay talks.

PDForra has potentially put itself on a collision course with the Government as seeking affiliation with the union umbrella body is against military regulations.

But the association — which represents more than 6,500 soldiers, sailors, and aircrews — has said it has no other choice because its members remain the worst paid public servants and have been taken advantage of as they have sworn an oath never to take strike action.

PDForra president Mark Keane confirmed his association has written to Ictu seeking affiliation. Ictu is expected to rubberstamp the request at its national executive conference, which takes place later this month, just days before that of PDForra.

“We are doing this to have the right to negotiate on pay and attend national pay talks,” Mr Keane said. “We are presently excluded from these talks. It’s surely the most basic civil right to be able to negotiate on behalf of our members.”

To allow PDForra affiliate with Ictu, Defence Minister Paul Kehoe would have to seek approval from his Cabinet colleagues to amend military regulations.

Mr Keane said members of the Defence Forces take the oath of allegiance which prevents them from taking industrial action very seriously “and we never would go down that path”.

However, he pointed out that at the last round of national pay talks, gardaí, prison officers, and firefighters were represented and as a result got rent allowances.

“The Government chose to feed three of its children, but left one of them (the Defence Forces) starved. We don’t want the right to strike, but being the good boys has got us nowhere.” 

More than 80 sailors are sleeping on ships at the Naval Service headquarters at Haulbowline Island in Cork harbour because they can’t afford soaring rents in areas around the base.

In its letter to Ictu, PDForra general secretary Ger Guinan said his association had campaigned hard to get permission from Mr Kehoe to seek Ictu affiliation.

“This campaign has recently seen our association lodge a complaint with the European Social Right Committee, which was successful in respect of our collective bargaining rights. Moreover, over the course of the past five years, two motions have been passed by a majority of the Dail providing for the grant of associate status of Congress to PDForra… 

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